Local Public Health departments are ramping up their efforts in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Central Minnesota. Benton County Public Health has begun conducting case and contact investigations -the practice of contacting someone who has tested positive and then tracking down other people they may have come in contact with while they were contagious, for lab confirmed COVID-19 positive cases in Benton County residents.
Across Minnesota, testing has increased to nearly 5,000 COVID-19 tests daily, with the number of new cases in Benton county ranging from 1-10+ per day. Case and contact investigation can take time, with the limitations in staffing capacity at the local and state level, we are sharing this work with the MN Department of Health.
The goal of case investigation and contact tracing is to limit the spread of infection within a community. In addition to limiting transmission, case and contact investigation helps public health identify clusters of outbreaks and will help further the understanding of the COVID-19 virus. We have been offering resources and support to community partners and local businesses to help keep employees safe. We are also helping to identify clusters of cases and assist in supporting their response.
In conducting this work, local public health departments prioritize protection of information of those who test positive, and they adhere to state and federal law, including HIPAA, to protect patient data. The information collected during the interview will only be shared with Public Health staff working on the COVID-19 response.
Outreach to people who have been infected gives Public Health the opportunity to provide essential service delivery, and/or connections to the services and support a COVID-19 client may need.
Benton County’s first lab confirmed case was on March 15th, 2020. As of May 19, 2020, there have been 141 lab confirmed cases in Benton County. The age ranges have been from under 1 up to 98 years old. Multiple people have been hospitalized, and there have been 2 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
As the state continues to reopen, we may see a rise in numbers. Case and contact investigations are critical. People who have been in close contact with someone who is infected with the virus are at high risk of becoming infected or spreading the virus to others. We need your help, It is important that you answer the call.
Public Health will continue to work hard on this effort and help slow the spread.